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After delay in ECC North building project, bids come in $3.4 million lower

Months of delay to the start of construction on a long-sought  $30 million academic building for Erie Community College’s North Campus in Amherst may have a silver lining.

Contractor bids for the project came in $3.4 million less than what Erie County officials had anticipated, savings that can be applied to furnish the building when it is complete.

The timing of the county’s bid process might have had something to do with the low bids, said John Loffredo, county commissioner of public works.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” he said. “My guess is we just hit a sweet spot in the bidding cycle.”

The bidding process was supposed to have occurred months ago, with construction scheduled to start this past April or May.

But a bureaucratic holdup in the release of $15 million in state funds for the project and an objection to the county’s plan to use a project labor agreement pushed back that timeline.

College and county officials are counting on the project to kick-start revitalization of an aging North Campus, the most populous of ECC’s three sites. The building will include two stories and 57,000 square feet – about half the size of an average Home Depot store. Science laboratories, classrooms, study spaces, prep rooms, a tutoring center and faculty offices will occupy the new building. A small cafe on the first floor near the main entry plaza also is planned.

Enrollment at ECC, as well as at most other community colleges across the state, has dropped dramatically in recent years, causing significant budget challenges. College officials believe the new building will help attract students.

The county had budgeted $22.3 million for electrical, general construction, masonry, plumbing, wall construction and heating, ventilation and cooling systems. The bids came in earlier this month totaling about $18.9 million.

The project’s total cost still is expected to end up near $30 million, half of which is being picked up by New York state. The other half is being split between the county and the college.

Some of the other costs include fees for general contractor and architect. Turner Construction and Kideney Architects were awarded $1.7 million contracts for those roles. It’s unclear how much it will cost to furnish the building with lab equipment, security systems and other features, but savings on construction will help pay for it.

The county and college have planned a groundbreaking for Aug. 24, the opening day of ECC’s fall 2016 semester. Construction is expected to be completed by Dec. 2017.

“They will have a fully furnished, functioning building when it’s complete,” Loffredo said.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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